Maybe your client disputed your findings and recommendations, the action you wanted taken wasn’t approved by the Board, or you never got any feedback at all. That last one is particularly distressing, because you KNOW how much work you put into it!
If you’re like me, it’s happened to you at least once in your career.
As a written communication skills coach, I’ve given feedback on hundreds of audit reports, scientific reports, marketing and other documents over the last 12 years. And there are a ton of common mistakes that are made. Native English speaker or not, years of experience writing in business or not: we all do it.
Here’s my list of the top 5 mistakes you might be making in your business reports … and how you can fix them!
1. Lack of structure
A lack of structure automatically results in a lack of clarity. Your readers are busy people in their own right, so make it easy to follow your logic and lead them through your reasoning to your conclusions and recommendations. Not sure of a good structure to use? I’ve got one for you in my free e-Book.
2. Weak recommendations
Well-crafted recommendations get attention and result in actions being taken. Explaining what, who and when are critical to making sure your readers have enough information to move forward. The why will ensure decision makers can support you.
3. Ignoring your readers
Who’s going to read your report? What do they need from it to do their job, take action, or improve their world? If you don’t know, stop writing, think it through, andask them if you need to. For more on how not to ignore your readers, check out my article, Knowing Your Audience is Key to Your Success.
4. Including everything you know on the topic
So many clients want to write everything they know on the topic. “Just in case.” Please… leave it out! Put enough information in your report to satisfy the purpose of the document and to make your recommendation. Less is more, and there are options for providing more information to the one or two readers who want it.
5. ‘Forgetting’ to a run spelling, grammar and style check
The fix is so simple and effective, and yet the mistake is made so often. Your word processing software has this function built in… so use it! Go into the options, configure it to check what you want checked, and then run it. Spelling mistakes have a negative impact on how professional you are perceived. Avoid hits to your reputation, and run the check.
These mistakes are fairly quick and easy to fix. Follow the advice here, check out the links, and perform an in-depth review of the document you are working on. Ask a colleague to review it, or connect with me to find out about coaching options.
Happy report writing!
All the best,
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.